The Accidentals: Book summary and reviews of The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin

The Accidentals

by Minrose Gwin

The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin X
The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin
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Book Summary

Following the death of their mother from a botched backwoods abortion, the McAlister daughters have to cope with the ripple effect of this tragedy as they come of age in 1950s Mississippi and then grow up to face their own impossible choices - an unforgettable, beautiful novel that is threaded throughout with the stories of mothers and daughters in pre-Roe versus Wade America.

Life heads down back alleys, takes sharp left turns. Then, one fine day it jumps the track and crashes."

In the fall of 1957, Olivia McAlister is living in Opelika, Mississippi, caring for her two girls, June and Grace, and her husband, Holly. She dreams of living a much larger life--seeing the world and returning to her wartime job at a landing boat factory in New Orleans. As she watches over the birds in her yard, Olivia feels like an "accidental"—a migratory bird blown off course.

When Olivia becomes pregnant again, she makes a fateful decision, compelling Grace, June, and Holly to cope in different ways. While their father digs up the backyard to build a bomb shelter, desperate to protect his family, Olivia's spinster sister tries to take them all under her wing. But the impact of Olivia's decision reverberates throughout Grace's and June's lives. Grace, caught up in an unconventional love affair, becomes one of the "girls who went away" to have a baby in secret. June, guilt-ridden for her part in exposing Grace's pregnancy, eventually makes an unhappy marriage. Meanwhile Ed Mae Johnson, an African-American care worker in a New Orleans orphanage, is drastically impacted by Grace's choices. 

As the years go by, their lives intersect in ways that reflect the unpredictable nature of bird flight that lands in accidental locations—and the consolations of imperfect return.

Filled with tragedy, humor, joy, and the indomitable strength of women facing the constricted spaces of the 1950s and 60s, The Accidentals is a poignant, timely novel that reminds us of the hope and consolation that can be found in unexpected landings.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The prose is teeming with beautifully vivid portraits of local birds and vegetation as well as evocative descriptions of contemporary foods, homemade liquor, and weekday dinners...An artfully crafted tale that explores how restrictions on women's choices impacted female relationships in mid-20th-century America." - Kirkus Reviews

"Fans of tear-jerkers will forgive the occasional too-pat coincidence as Gwin brings all the threads together for an uplifting finale. This is a satisfying fable of errors and consequences in a tumultuous era." - Publishers Weekly

"A sensitive coming-of-age story…saturated with heartbreak but still offering hope." - Booklist

"Minrose Gwin tenderly recounts the lives of two sisters shattered by the shocking loss of their mother. The unique voices of outsiders enrich their story, and Gwin pulls together the threads of all characters' lives into an elegant and surprising tapestry." - Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author of The Dream Daughter

"This is the story of a family, but mostly, it's the epic tale of two sisters, and, in the end, we are left with sublime memories of empty sparrow nests, chicken 'coke awe vine,' and reticulating giraffes. A stunning book you will want to read and re-read." - Margaret McMullan, bestselling author of Where the Angels Lived

"The Accidentals is a major work by someone whose earlier novels already marked her as one of this generation's great novelists...And it is not only character and plot that make this book so readable; the writing is pure poetry. Gwin has done it again!" - Margaret Randall, author of Time's Language: Selected Poems 1959-2018

"If Eudora Welty channeled Charles Dickens she'd have written this novel about orphans and strays and the accidental ways they lose and find each other. It's a happy, sad, sweet page-turner, a great book." - Debra Monroe, author of On the Outskirts of Normal

This information about The Accidentals was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Minrose Gwin

Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award, and the memoir Wishing for Snow, cited by Booklist as "eloquent" and "lyrical"—"a real life story we all need to know." She has written four scholarly books and coedited The Literature of the American South. She grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, hearing stories of the Tupelo tornado of 1936. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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